A few days ago, Kyle Okposo was the recipient of a devastating open ice hit in a pre-season game against the Calgary Flames, delivered by none other than Dion Phaneuf. Since then he has returned to New York for further testing for what has been diagnosed as a mild concussion. After watching the hit several times, I will state my opinion: it was clean. Perfectly clean. He never left his feet, nor did he throw any elbows.
Kyle was skating through the neutral zone and Nigel Dawes was harassing him on the forecheck, forcing him to lose control. As he reached for the puck he left himself in a complete vulnerable position; his back was hunched over, his arms were extended, and worst of all his head was down facing the ice. As a result, he got a first class welcome from Phaneuf's shoulder.
Personally, I loved the hit. Don't get me wrong, I am not happy to see that Okposo is injured. I never want to see a respectable player such as Okposo, or anyone for that matter, to receive an injury from playing an honest game. However, since the league has changed the rules over the past few years, NHL ice surfaces have become realms for danglers and finesse playmakers. By all means, that's great. But hitting and fighting have dwindled over the years...so much to the point that the league has toyed with the idea of removing glove dropping from the game completely, despite it being a major component since the very beginning.
But as of now fighting is still allowed, and someone needed to be on the ice to respond to that hit. Although it was clean, whenever one of your core players go down, especially someone who the team relies on every shift of every game, someone has to challenge Phaneuf. I'll admit, it was fun to watch Morency "legally" leave the bench to challenge him, but wouldn't it have been nice to have our own version of Godard, Laraque, or Orr on the ice for the next shift to send a message to the Flames and Phaneuf himself?
Let's put this into perspective. Imagine that it was Tavares who got railed by Phaneuf and was facing injury. I am not saying that Tavares is anymore important than Okposo. They're both young, aspiring hockey players that play a great game. But there has been a lot of hype surrounding John. He's the first overall pick that is providing hope for a franchise that is desperately trying to stay on Long Island, that is seeming to finally turn a corner in the future of the team's youth movement due to his arrival. So much would have been taken out from the Islanders season if he were to be injured (knock on wood that it doesn't happen).
That is why the Islanders need someone in the line-up to protect these guys. We can't let players like Phaneuf, or Pronger, Brashear, Clarkson, Godard, and others in our division that we will see on a weekly basis, run at our young guys without anyone ready to stand up for them.
One of our best players went down at center ice. And who was ready to answer? No one.
Mr. Snow, you might want to do something about this as soon as possible.